St. Anthony Village RV park set to sell to developer, residents told to move


The 15-acre Lowry Grove RV park in St. Anthony is being sold for an undisclosed amount of money to a developer. Residents at the park have a year to relocate or find new housing.

Residents of 97 mobile homes have been informed they have no more than a year left to live at Lowry Grove. According to a few residents interviewed by the Bulletin, this news doesn’t come as a shock.

The residents of nearly 100 homes in St. Anthony were told April 27 that they would have to pack up and leave within a year’s time. According to the owners of Lowry Grove, LLP, a trailer park located at 2501 Lowry Avenue N.E., the property is being sold to a developer for an undisclosed price.

The location, not far from downtown Minneapolis and eyed for years by interested parties, had not been listed for sale, but according to Phil Johnson, the managing partner of the RV park, the idea of selling it had been on the table a long time amongst the park’s five owners. 

The sale agreement came, in part, by way of a relationship between the property owners and a former employee.

The property, just larger than 15 acres in size, is being sold to Wayzata-based Continental Property Group, the president of which was once the property manager of Lowry Grove. 

“We’d been contacted on a fairly regular basis for a number of years,” Johnson said. “But we wanted to make sure it was the right fit. We wanted to make sure we had the right developer that would treat our residents correctly and we found that when we found Continental Property Group.”

 

The buyer

Traci Tomas, president of Continental Property Group and a resident of New Brighton, worked for Lowry Grove about a decade ago. She said over the five years she worked there, she got to know some of the residents. Tomas noted that she still recognized some of the names when she looked over a list of the tenants.

According to both Tomas and Johnson, this sale agreement was made with the understanding that each resident would be compensated in some way. 

“There’s a state statute that governs the closing down of a manufactured housing community and we’ll have to follow that closely,” Johnson said. “My sense is that [the buyer] will do everything it can to properly compensate the residents for either their homes or paying for them to move their homes.”

Just what that compensation is, according to Tomas, will depend upon the individual. 

In a press conference at the park April 27, both Tomas and Johnson expressed an understanding that moving out may be difficult for some of the tenants, as they are either dependent upon the affordable rent rate, or simply because they call their RV spot home.

“That’s the way life is sometimes,” Johnson said, referring to the struggle tenants might face in moving out of the park. 

 

Mum’s the word on price

Johnson said the residents will have the “right, per statute, to know what the land is sold for,” but as of yet, neither Johnson nor Tomas would go on record with the exact dollar amount of the sale. 

According to the Hennepin County Property Tax web database, the property’s estimated market value in 2015 was just more than $3.8 million.

“The little bit of reaction that we’ve received, [tenants] have responded like they expected it and like they understand why we’re moving ahead,” Johnson said, noting that not all the residents had heard the news, as some were at work and others had not yet received the notice. In interviews, a handful of residents said they were not shocked by the sale.

“It makes sense they’re selling,” said Grant Erdahl, a maintenance manager for a property in Minneapolis. “Honestly, I don’t know how it lasted this long.”

 

One of many

Erdahl, 43, has lived in the Lowry Grove community with his 15-year-old son for about eight years. He said it was mainly the location that landed them there.

“When I was commuting, I was driving by this place everyday single day,” he said. “One day I just stopped in.”

Erdahl ended up buying his mobile home for only $100. 

“We’re living well below our means,” he said.

That’s the case for most of his neighbors, he said, but he added that the community has different sections with people of varying means, and that some people live there out of necessity. 

Erdahl, who at the time had not yet told his son of the move they would have to make, said he wasn’t sure how the news would be received. 

“We haven’t moved in a long time, but I think he’ll be fine with it. We’ll have to find a place in the same school district. This was always a temporary thing, anyway,” he added, noting that mobile homes are just that: mobile. 

Erdahl said he plans to find a place to rent in the area, rather than a new trailer park in which to park his home. 

 

70-year-old infrastructure

Lowry Grove residents received a letter from Johnson explaining the sale the same day it was announced to the press.

The letter explained the management and operation of Lowry Grove has become increasingly demanding as the infrastructure — the roads, as well as water, sewer and electric lines  — has been aging. Some of it, Johnson said, is more than 70 years old. 

“We constantly have sewer issues and water lines breaking ... lots of infrastructure issues because it’s old,” Johnson said during the press conference. 

“The park no longer meets the standards of modern manufactured home communities,” said the letter that was sent to residents. 

Another reason for the sale, Johnson said, was that he and his four owning partners are approaching retirement age.

Though Tomas isn’t yet sure what her company will do with the land — it has a year to figure it out — she did confirm that it would no longer be a trailer park. 

 

‘Looking for opportunities’

“Continental Property Group is a developer, that’s primarily what we do,” said Tomas, “We’re always looking for opportunities.” 

Tomas said the history of her company goes back more than three decades, and it has about 4 million square feet worth of properties nationwide, including in California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Oregon and Minnesota. 

One of those more recent local opportunities, she said, is the Hello Apartments development in Golden Valley, which set to open late this year. Tomas said the company will work with the city and residents to see what this development should look like — noting the land was identified in St. Anthony’s comprehensive plan as a site of interest, as far as development goes. 

One thing she said the site will most likely not become is a big-box department store.

 

City officials not speculating

In an interview the day after the announcement, St. Anthony Mayor Jerry Faust told the Bulletin that the city has not yet been approached by the buyer for discussions on possibly changing the land-use. 

As for what Faust thinks would be a good fit, he said, that’s not his place.

“We don’t know what the potential buyers want to do,” he said. “I think it would be purely speculative on my part to anticipate or try to anticipate what their objectives are. What they’re trying to accomplish — I have no idea,” he added.

He said Continental Property Group will need to come up with a proposal.

“I think we need to wait for that before we make any comments about what we think it could be,” Faust said. 

St. Anthony city manager Mark Casey said he didn’t have much to add either.

“It’s hard to comment or react,” he said. “The planning commission nor the city council has seen an application, yet.” 

 

Waiting on the process

Casey said there’s a “prescribed process” that has to be followed. That entails public hearings and meetings with staff prior to approval or denial from the council.

“None of that has started yet,” he said.

According to Casey, the land is currently zoned as single-family residential. He said the city’s 2008 comprehensive plan mentions that the city would prefer the land to be zoned for multi-family residential if it gets redeveloped. 

“But a comprehensive plan kind of just lays some ground work,” Casey said. He said it doesn’t determine the future usage of the land. “It’ll be a public process ... it’ll be the same process we follow for any parcel of land.”

As far as the tax implications of changing the use of the property, neither Faust nor Casey could comment. 

 

Lowry Grove in the news

This is not the first time Lowry Grove has been in the spotlight. In 2009, the site made national news when 118 cats were found in and removed from a couple’s trailer, while in 2014, 51-year-old park-resident William Thomas Holt was shot and killed by police after he emerged from his mobile home with a rifle following an hours-long standoff.

The current owners of Lowry Grove have owned and operated the property as a trailer park for around 20 years, Johnson said.

Hennepin County property tax records say the park was built in 1950, and the last listed sale of the park was in May, 2001, for $1.45 million.

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815. Follow him at @JPooleNews.

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